On Saturday the lights in Centennial Park will be taken down and stored for another year. It seems like only yesterday we helped set them up as first-time volunteers.
The advertisement in the paper read, “Celebration of Lights Sarnia, looking for volunteers, Saturday morning at 8:30 am. Lunch will be provided.”
We arrive to discover a diverse group of volunteers ranging in age from 12 to 80, looking cold and waiting for instructions. I look around for the coffee and realize everyone else has brought their own beverages. Crap.
The person in charge arrives: “Who has volunteered in the past?” A few people hold up their hands. Who has been a leader? The hands dwindle. Who will be leaders this year? Three men consent, she looks a little desperate and I think, “How hard can it be?” So I volunteer.
I know nothing about the project, but I have my trusty sidekick and niece, Olivia. Together we can figure things out. I scan the crowd for anyone who has brought their own tools.
“You two, I need you for my team.”
We’re informed that we’re in charge of the mermaid and Santa’s beloved fishes … I know, right?
Olivia discovers she has a penchant for solving puzzles. Her team take the fishes and begins to figure out where each one belongs, using a diagram, O’s direction and at times a kind of group intuition (twisting and turning the fish till they fit). They begin to discover each other’s strengths and I recognize my leadership skills are required over at the mermaid.
“We are great with the putting together stuff, but not so good with the puzzle part,” my tool men confess. I’m good at the puzzle solving but a novice with tools. We were destined to work together.
As our mermaid takes form and I receive a happy introduction to a magical tool called a RACHET. It was love at first rach. I begin tightening nuts even where others would have said it wasn’t necessary.
Olivia and I take a walk about. We meet a group of men building miniature houses (I don’t think it looked like this last year, someone mutters), students checking the bulbs, cadets creating an arch of lights over the sidewalk and the fire crew erecting the giant musical tree.
The smell of warming soup drifts through the crowd. The promise of hot chocolate and coffee draw people to the trailer. Everyone chats and laughs and throws out suggestions.
We felt satisfied, like we’d been part of something, like we could drive by and say, “Don’t mean to brag, but my team put up Santa’s mermaid and fishes.”
Lesleigh Turner is a 50-something woman, guardian, registered nurse, director and actor. Living in Sarnia is her latest adventure.